This is a guest article contributed by Alex Morris.
In early 2013 Yahoo!’s CEO, Marissa Mayer, inadvertently shot Yahoo! to the top of media news stories after she issued a memo to the firm’s 11,500 US employees. It read, “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home, we need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”
The message was simple – working from home does not work. For a business to be successful, employees must be in the office.
Mayer’s move caused quite a stir in the business world; many industry observers consider a modern progressive business, especially one in the technology and creative industries, to be open to the notion of its staff working away from the office.
Clearly Meyer doesn’t agree, but is she right to issue the ban? It’s a highly debatable issue and almost everyone in the business world has had a say. In this article we weigh up the contrasting approaches to working life, but is there a solution to this most contemporary of issues?
The Benefits of Working From Home
No more commuting:
For many hard done by office workers this would be the main bonus – losing the daily commute. Outside of getting a personal helicopter lift to and from work, the daily trips to and from work are often infuriating and insipid. The elimination of several hours a day of travelling would do wonders for stress levels. Along with freeing up time to concentrate on work, money would be saved from transport, and it would give everyone a lie in each morning.
There is no hiding from the fact all the latest technology means a worker can easily perform their job from home. Where there’s a computer and internet access there’s the chance to connect with the world, and your colleagues.
A better working atmosphere:
The chances are many office staff will begin to annoy each other at some point – it’s just human nature. Any pent up resentment against other employees’ annoying working habits would no longer be an issue.
RSI, strained eyes, stress, poor posture, lack of proper food, and need of sleep make for many issues in working life. An employee, in theory, can manage such matters from home with regular breaks and properly prepared food. Office life often denies such luxuries.
Work/home life balance:
Working remotely can reduce the way work dominates people’s lives, allowing more time to be spent on home and family life. When people work more flexibly they can have more time with the family and other issues, such as sharing the responsibility of childcare and engagement input into their children’s’ lives, can be managed more carefully.
The drastic reduction of commuting has the potential to be very beneficial to the environment; the more people work from home, the less congested roads will be. Pollution levels will drop and city areas will become less hazardous.
All of the above could well make home working a more effective way to take on a busy schedule. With the removal of commuting stress, and the added extra sleep, employees would be in the best condition to do their work. But would staff procrastinate?
The results would be evident in their level of productivity, so setting target-based objectives would be an effective way to maintain company expectations.
The Benefits of Office Life
A socially creative environment:
Collective offices can be incredibly creative and dynamic places to work. Colleagues can bounce ideas around and inspire each other, hold impromptu meetings, and enjoy the trust promoted by face-to-face contact. Physically working alongside colleagues can create a lively business, and there is the potential for beneficial social aspects to boot.
Many people work best with the firm structure and routine that comes with office life, whilst some employers would find it important to have their staff on site for logistical reasons – Yahoo!’s Marissa Meyer being one.
A sense of community:
Working within a company can help foster a sense of community and supportive working environment. There can be other benefits of working in a company such as health care, insurance, and pension policies. The social aspects of office life can’t be ignored, either, as the banter of office life can provide a sense of security, as well as leading to positive relationships in, and outside, of working life.
Work/home life balance:
Some people find working in an office to be a more constructive approach to maintaining their personal life. Time apart from family can provide all the impetus needed to maintain a healthy home life.
If a large section of the workforce are working in isolation at home, supplying their own materials, individually powering their office equipment, heating their home, and cooking all their own meals, this isn’t ideal for the environment. Centralising it all in one office, where a firm can promote environmental initiatives, could be more constructive.
The Best Approach For Your Business
Whilst these observations are generalised, and the reality is undoubtedly more complex, some forms of work are more suited for remote working, for example; graphic design, writing, computer programming, web design, and arts and crafts. So Yahoo!’s Marissa Mayer’s ban must be seen in context: she has recently taken charge of a struggling company and is looking for solutions to make Yahoo’s business more effective. But this model doesn’t necessarily apply to similar companies.
If you run a business have a think and decide what’s best for your company. Would it be more effective for everyone to be in the office? Or does it not really matter? Experiment and see which suits your firm best. Business goals and targets are key, of course, but being flexible with your approach can have incredible benefits on stress levels and productivity.
The way we work continues to evolve and for many of us the best approach is likely to be one that mixes working independently, some of the time at home or on the move, at other times coming together for meetings, and working collectively in offices. Over the next decade we could well see the expected shift towards the majority of staff being off site, but for now it’s important to remember each staff member thrives in disparate ways. Pick up on these and promote whatever’s best for them. Your business could well flourish as a result.
How do you find working at home or at the office? If you’ve done both, what do you prefer and why?
Alex Morris is a writer for Cartridge Save in Manchester, England, where he writes about ink cartridges. Office life does have the benefit of social interaction, although he wishes we’d buy an office kitten.